Please check out the Home Skillet website for more information about what we do.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Beer O'Clock

I don't know why, as my interest in wine has grown over the past several years, a curiosity about beer never developed. It took my recent adventures in home fermentations to even open the door to home brewing, a door that, gladly, I don't think will close for quite some time.

As a first effort we decided to go with something straightforward, with a nice malt-hop balance, a drink that would - if successful - be easily recognizable as beer. I realized fairly early into the process why I had never been interested in it before. Unlike wine which, under the right serendipitous conditions, would be made in nature with no human intervention (e.g. a bunch of grapes falls to the ground and gets wedged between some rocks. It is unreachable by bugs or birds, shaded from weather extremes, and the ambient yeasts that are all around us go to town on the sweet berries); unlike that, beer is not a wild fermentation; that is, it requires a process - malting - by which certain starches in a grain are converted into certain sugars which are then available for fermentation. So from the beginning there is an extra human step with beer.

In theory, that could be the only added step. One could ferment using natural, wild yeasts (as they do for "sour" beers). But in the home brewing reality, there are many other possible points of intervention. You can buy hop pellets and malt syrup, and, if you are using store-bought yeast, you have to aggressively sanitize anything that comes near your beer.

It is all of these points of intervention, each a movement away from raw materials available in nature, that I find off-putting. That being said, I know a lot more about wine than I do about beer, so I may be oversimplifying the situation. Also, the craziness of sterilizing to kill everything and then inoculating with something in particular and then struggling to keep that store-bought thing as the only active critter in the mix while trying to kill all the other natural critters, is a process that happens all the time in the commercial wine world. So there's that.

Anyway, however you look at it, the magic is the fermentation, and it's fascinating to watch take place right in your kitchen. I'm thinking the fermentation period is over now, so I'll taste tomorrow, and then probably go ahead and bottle it. And then we'll brew again.

1 comment: